Steamboat Springs Dedication, strength and a willingness to be woken up at 3 a.m. are all characteristics the city is looking for in new volunteers for its fire department.
With a new full-time firefighting staff that is made up of former volunteers, the city is hoping to find a new group of locals who can be counted on to help put out flames in an emergency.
The fire department, through expansion and turnover, often depletes its reserve of volunteers, though it seems to stay steady at about 28 people, said Jacqui Campbell, public information officer for the fire department. That's why it needs to continually replenish its stock of firefighters.
Currently, the department has 16 volunteer firefighters and seven part-time employees, somewhat less than usual. The biggest differences between the two are the pay and the hours they work. Part-timers' schedules are more flexible and they are paid by the hour, while "volunteers" are basically always on call and get paid $20 per fire call regardless of how long they are at the scene, Campbell said.
People who want to volunteer will have to go through nine months of training, including rigorous physical and mental examinations. They will take a midterm exam that, if they pass, will allow them to ride along with the firefighters and observe.
So far, the fire department has received four applications for volunteers, Campbell said. It is hoping to get at least six people to start the next round of classes required for certification. Volunteers, however, can apply at any time throughout the year and be inserted into the courses, Campbell said.
Shawn Zwak, a volunteer firefighter, said the training program is somewhat time-consuming about 10 hours of classroom and homework time per month but it is very rewarding. He said being a firefighter has been an incredible experience and has fit his personality.
"The type of people in this organization are fun people to be with," he said. "And people always like to see a firefighter."